29 January 2020

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Posted by Callan Bentley

Last night, I finished a wonderful little book of science fiction, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. It’s the first book in a series of novels, called “Wayfarers” after the name of the ship whose crew are the subjects of the story. Like Joss Whedon’s TV series “Firefly,” the crew of the Wayfarer is motley. Unlike “Firefly,” though, and more like Star Wars, they are a mix of species. This is really cool, because Chambers has a terrific imagination for different species that are part of the Galactic Commons. Alongside humans, there are affectionate reptilian creatures, virus-infected sloth-like creatures that can visualize spacetime better than any other creature, and my favorite, a huge tardigrade-like creature that is the embodiment of peace and caring. Among the humans, there are two frenetic technicians: one who reminds me of Kate McKinnon’s character in the new Ghostbusters reboot, and another who reminds me of Tyrion Lannister from “Game of Thrones.” There’s also the plucky captain who keeps them all together – in my mind, he’d be played by Chris Pratt in a movie version of the book, and a self-aware AI in the ship’s computer mainframe. Over the span of the novel, the actual plot arc is thin, but that’s 100% fine, because this is a book about relationships and personal growth rather than defeating some galactic overlord or somesuch. The chapters are about crises and adventures they have along their way to a job site, a journey that lasts the better part of a year. Each could stand alone as a short story, but the sum of all chapters results in a book that left me feeling like I’d made a bunch of new friends, and feeling very satisfied indeed. Recommended! (And I’m looking forward to starting the sequel next!)